Monday, June 24, 2013

In the beginning .....


Dwight Eisenhower was President, a red Corvette was a thing of beauty, and the US and the USSR were embroiled in the Cold War (which had an occasionally amusing side).

Lee Merlin, Miss Atomic Bomb 1957

In San Francisco, the Seals professional baseball team was in its last season, soon to be replaced by the Giants, who were relocating from New York.  In March, a 5.3 magnitude earthquake shook the area, but all in all, life was good.
In a few years, the area now known as The Castro District would become a vibrant and diverse area, home to vast array of people and lifestyles.  At this time, though, it was still predominantly a working class neighborhood, whose residents were often of Irish descent.

It was in this neighborhood, in this year, that I first made my appearance.  My parents had moved to the area a few months prior, having previously lived in Walnut Creek, 30 miles east.  Apparently we moved frequently.  In fact, a year later we'd be in Riverside County, Southern California.  But for now, 17th Street in San Francisco was home. 

(OK, this is Market Street, but we lived pretty close.)

When I say "we" I'm referring, of course, to my family.  My parents, D & S, had been married for a few years.  He was retired from the Navy and then had worked for a while as a bus driver.  He eventually joined the Military Sea Transport Service as a civilian mariner.  In that position, he helped transport troops and supplies overseas and was frequently gone from home.  I don't know much about my father's early life, except that he was born in Texas, one of a dozen siblings, and son to a very abusive father and very submissive mother.  The 1940 Census lists the family as living in tents alongside a river.  Our father's name was not among those listed for the family, as he was in reform school at the time.  Family lore says that his grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee, but more about that in a later post.

My mother?  She was born and raised in the Midwest.  Solidly middle-class, she was daughter to schoolteachers, and younger sister to a brother who excelled.  At everything.  Straight As in high school led him to an excellent college where he earned a degree in Engineering.  He would later enroll in law school and make a career as a successful patent attorney.  My mother, S, on the other hand, was artistic, and a dreamer.  Her father was a kind-hearted, gentle soul, while her mother was much more demanding.  She tried to mold S into a "proper young lady," but met with frustratingly limited success.  Later, S would tell me of being compelled to learn the song "My Mother Bids Me Bind My Hair" (click to listen) to perform for her mother's friends.  While her brother was able to easily meet their mother's expectations, S was not.  She attended college for one year, then dropped out, got married and headed for the West Coast -- never looking back.

Unfortunately, the marriage didn't last.  No surprise, given that it was, consciously or not, a means to an end.  She was divorced and on her own by the time she was in her early 20's.  She didn't always work, but when she did, she was a secretary -- a suitably appropriate, if not terribly challenging, position for a smart young woman in the 1950's.

1 comment:

  1. I am enthralled... reading on...